After attending a conference in Brisbane, I spent 5 days in the Whitsunday Islands. If you read about my trip to Australia in Giù di Sotto, this is part 2. The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands off the coast of Queensland, named incorrectly by Captain Cook. He had crossed the International Date Line, so it was Monday! The islands are sheltered by La Grande Barriera Corallina-the Great Barrier Reef, making them a great place for boating. In 1988 I spent a few days sailing in the Whitsundays, and they are just as beautiful now.
I took a daytrip to the Great Barrier Reef, a world heritage area which is the only living thing visible from space! It took 2 hours to get to a large pontoon next to Hardy Reef where I spent 4 hours before heading back. The pontoon had snorkel and scuba equipment, and a semi-submersible with glass sides. I met someone on the pontoon who had done ‘Reefsleep’, spending the previous night on the deck. He said ‘at 8 pm they turned off all the lights and God turned on the stars’. Wow.
I went snorkeling and it was spectacular-although I must admit I was terrified. I’m not a strong swimmer and don’t like to be in deep water. They recommended we wear ‘stinger suits’ because in warm deep water there can be tiny jellyfish called Urukandji that are very dangerous. They are found mostly in the Australian summer and farther north near Cairns, but everyone is extremely safety conscious. I had trouble keeping the camera still, so my reef photos are a bit blurry. The only time in my life I would have liked one of those ridiculous selfie sticks! Photos can’t capture the reef like being there. I saw hundreds of little fishies, but did not end up finding Nemo.
When I went for a ride in the semi-sub, I was so glad to be out of the water because I saw un squallo-a reef shark! Eek! I know, they are small, apparently ‘harmless’, eat small fish and are afraid of people, but I don’t think the words ‘harmless’ and ‘shark’ should ever be used in the same sentence. There was a scuba underwater marriage proposal. Staff divers helped him roll out a big cloth that said ‘Will you marry me?’, and she said ‘yes’!
Whitehaven Beach, on Whitsunday Island really should be called ‘Whiteheaven Beach’. It’s 7 km of pure white silica sand that doesn’t get hot no matter what the temperature is. The island has been a protected National Park for 30 years and it looks just as stunning and unspoiled as it did in 1988. Whitehaven is considered the most beautiful beach in Australia and among the top 10 in the world.
One evening I went kyacking to watch the sunset over Dent Island and Plum Pudding Island-yes there really is an island called Plum Pudding! Along the way, a big slimy green head with droopy eyes came up out of the water beside my kyack, opened it’s mouth, took a giant breath then dove back in. Then I saw it’s shell and realized it was not a sea monster, but a sea turtle.
While kyacking, I was invited to Trivia Night at the Marina Tavern. My team won and my prize was 24 hours of ‘buggy hire’. The Whitsundays are car-free. On Hamilton Island, you can get around on the free bus, or with a buggy-an electric golf cart. My new friends from Argentina and I went cruising around and drove to the Church up the hill. Since it was spring, there were farfalle (butterflies) everywhere. Thousands of them! They even flew through the open window while I was attempting to drive on the other side of the road. Luckily I didn’t hit anything!
There was a lot of wildlife on Hamilton Island besides the farfalle. One night I saw a wallaby as I walked back to the hotel, another night a possum. Beautiful Rainbow Lorikeets flew all over, and became very friendly when they saw food! Lorenzo the cockatoo hung out on my balcony. Why did I call him Lorenzo? If you have seen paintings of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s naso (nose), you will understand! I hope you have enjoyed this photo journey to the Whitsundays! Ciao, Cristina